[Ads-l] Query concerning the removal of "French" from "French horn" (2nd try)

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Wed Jun 24 02:25:27 UTC 2015

It's always been my understanding that professional 'horn' players preferred the unqualified term, while others ('civilians') preferred 'French Horn'. But that's totally impressionistic. This query from the STLSO contradicts that, I guess. 

I do recall a discussion several years ago about whether members of professional orchestras preferred to be called 'players' or 'musicians'. That actually became an issue during the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike a few years ago, which I was (peripherally) drawn into--VERY long story. 


Geoffrey S. Nathan 
Faculty Liaison, C&IT 
and Professor, Linguistics Program 
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT) 

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks. 

----- Original Message -----

> From: "Gerald Leonard Cohen" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 8:31:58 PM
> Subject: Re: Query concerning the removal of "French" from "French
> horn" (2nd try)

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Subject: Re: Query concerning the removal of "French" from "French
> horn"
> (2nd try)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> My first attempt a few minutes ago turned up as gibberish on my
> computer; h=
> ere's a second try:

> ---

> Yesterday I received a query from a musician in the St. Louis
> Symphony wond=
> ering if the effort of the International Horn Society to remove
> "French" fr=
> om "French horn" has any chance of success (answer: probably not) and
> wheth=
> er I'm aware of any other attempts to change language (vernacular) by
> a pre=
> scriptive decree or strong recommendation.

> The latter question is particularly interesting. Would any of you
> have exam=
> ples of vernacular speech being changed by decree/recommendation?

> Below my signoff is the message I received, presented here with
> permission.

> Gerald Cohen

> P.S. In a follow-up message Mr. Kaza sent me the exact wording
> pertaining t=
> o his society's position on the term "French horn":
> "The International Horn Society recommends that HORN be recognized as
> the c=
> orrect name for our instrument in the English language." --- [From
> the Minu=
> tes of the First General Meeting, June 15, 1971, Tallahassee,
> Florida, USA]

> ________________________________
> From: Roger Kaza [kazawolf at gmail.com<mailto:kazawolf at gmail.com>]
> Sent: Monday, June 22, 2015 10:23 AM
> To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Subject: Question from local musician

> Dear Dr. Cohen,

> <snip> I am a local classical musician doing some research on the
> name of m=
> y instrument, and wondered if you might have a minute to point me in
> the ri=
> ght direction.

> The problem is, my instrument has two names in English: either
> "French horn=
> ," or just "horn." Almost everywhere else in the world it is known by
> one n=
> ame, corresponding to horn...corno in Italian, cor in French, horn in
> Germa=
> n, etc. However, the prefix "French" horn was used in England as far
> back a=
> s the 1600s, for various historical reasons which are well-known.
> Today, fo=
> r most people who speak English, it is a much more specific
> unambiguous ter=
> m than the generic "horn" which is often use to describe any wind
> instrumen=
> t or a jazz band "horn" section.

> In 1971 the newly-formed International Horn Society decreed that
> "horn" sho=
> uld be the official name for our instrument in the English language,
> and th=
> ose of us who play it should presumably educate everyone else.
> However, sin=
> ce that time, nothing has changed, and it is still referred to both
> ways pr=
> obably as much as it ever was. Generally, high-culture publications
> (progra=
> ms, reviews, orchestra rosters, CDs etc) use "horn" and everyone else
> uses =
> "French horn." Most dictionaries acknowledge both; Oxford calls
> "horn" shor=
> t for "French horn."

> My question is this. I am writing a semi-scholarly article for our
> organiza=
> tion's trade journal, The Horn Call, to explore the issue. I was
> wondering =
> if you could direct me towards any papers, articles or books which
> examine =
> attempts to blot out vernacular usage of a particular word, and
> whether or =
> not this is ever successful, or can be successful. Or any other
> insights yo=
> u may have on this issue! I thank you in advance for your help, and
> can off=
> er you free symphony tickets if you like that sort of thing!

> Kindest regards,

> Roger Kaza
> Principal Horn
> St. Louis Symphony

> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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